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south africa

national parks (back to intro)

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Arusha National Park
Gombe Streams National Park
Kilimanjaro National Park
Lake Manyara National Park
Mahale Mountains National Park
Ngorongoro Conservation Area
Ruaha National Park
Selous National Park
Tarangire National Park

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Serengeti National Park

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Ngorongoro Conservation Area

The Ngorongoro Conservation Area covers a large amount of varied terrain between the Serengeti and Lake Manyara parks. It is an area of fantastic natural beauty and contains active volcanoes, mountains, archaeological sites, rolling plains, forests, lake dunes and the famous Ngorongoro Crater and Olduvai Gorge. At one point in time, millions of years ago, Ngorongoro might have been about the same size as Mount Kilimanjaro. However, the volcanic activity subsided and it collapsed inward forming the crater, which is the world's largest unbroken "caldera". The crater is 610 meters deep and covers an area of 260 square kilometers.

The spectacular views inside the crater are a major tourist attraction. On the floor of the crater, an incredibly dense collection of wildlife is to be found. There are about 25,000 large mammals in the crater. Huge numbers of zebra and wildebeest are accompanied by animals like the gazelle, buffalo, eland, hartebeest and warthog. Giraffes are not found here because the food supply is inadequate at tree level. Similarly, the topi is not found here because of the fierce competition with the wildebeest. The crater is one of the best sites to view the black rhinos in Tanzania, small though their numbers may be. Some of the other animals found in the park are the lion (including the black-maned males), leopard, cheetah, hyena, elephant, buffalo. There is also a large variety of bird life which, incidentally, is affected by the ratio of soda to fresh water in Lake Magadi on the crater floor. Large numbers of flamingoes turn the lake shores pink with their plumage. Visitors can stay at a number of lodges and camps on the crater rim, well placed to provide fantastic views of the crater floor. Tourists can observe wildlife from their vehicles (4X4 ones recommended) or undertake walking safaris. They can also observe the Maasai tribe in their traditional attire, herding cattle, sheep and goat herds.

In the northern, and more remote, part of the Conservation Area are the Olmoti and Empakaai Craters, Lake Natron and Oldoinyo Lengai, or the Mountain of God as the Maasai call them. East Africa's flamingoes are known to breed at Lake Natron. On the eastern side of Empakaai are the Engakura Ruins, which feature a terraced stone city and a complex irrigation system. The stone buildings are unusual because the concept is unusual in this part of Africa.

Those interested in archaeology should also visit the Olduvai Gorge, where famous archaeological discoveries were made by Mary and Louis Leakey. Olduvai is more accurately known as Oldupai. It is the site where "Nutcracker Man" or Australopithecus boisei - a 1.75 million-year-old fossil hominid - was discovered. The visitor center contains a small yet informative museum. The gorge contains a number of archaeological sites with fossils, settlement remains, and even stone artifacts.

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